Mercy plea with Prez, but Afzal’s fate sealed
President Pratibha Patil hasn’t put her signature on Afzal Guru’s mercy plea yet. But a decade after the December 13, 2001 attack on Parliament, the fate of the man convicted of the conspiracy is already sealed.delhi Updated: Dec 13, 2011 02:44 IST
President Pratibha Patil hasn’t put her signature on Afzal Guru’s mercy plea yet. But a decade after the December 13, 2001 attack on Parliament, the fate of the man convicted of the conspiracy is already sealed.
In a confidential recommendation to Patil on July 27, home minister P Chidambaram asked her to reject the plea. This leaves little room for manoeuvre.
If the President had any doubts, former home secretary GK Pillai cleared these in 2010, when he discussed pending pleas at Rashtrapati Bhawan with Patil’s secretary Christy L Fernandez. He also sent a note to Fernandez that was recently released under RTI.
The February 1, 2010 note comprises excerpts from two Supreme Court judgments, emphasising that the power of the President to grant mercy — under article 72 of the Constitution — is to be exercised on the advice of the Centre. “It is not open either to the President or governor to take independent decision or direct release or refuse release of any one of their own choice,” it says, quoting a 1980 judgment.
“We were trying to impress upon Rashtrapati Bhawan that the President’s office did not have the discretion to keep the recommendation pending indefinitely. It could accept or reject it,” a ministry official said.
Patil has decided 13 mercy pleas since November 2009. Three — including that of Rajiv Gandhi’s killers — were rejected and
in the rest, death was commuted to life. Sixteen are still pending.